Notebook: July 2022

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include:

  • FDA Finishes Veterinary Drug Compounding Guidance
  • 5 Strategies for Building Employee Loyalty
  • CAPC Releases 2022 Pet Parasite Forecasts

and more!

FDA Finishes Veterinary Drug Compounding Guidance

GettyImages-1224404114.jpgThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a 22-page final guidance, entitled “Compounding Animal Drugs from Bulk Drug Substances,” that they say will help protect animal health by recognizing the need for access to certain compounded animal drugs. The guidance describes the agency’s approach to situations in which veterinarians use unapproved compounded drugs to provide appropriate care for the medical needs of the diverse species they treat. The FDA states that it “recognizes that this final guidance covers a wide range of stakeholders and [that it] plans to focus on education and stakeholder engagement before shifting resources toward inspectional activities in fiscal year 2023.”

A blog post by the American Veterinary Medical Association states that “throughout the FDA’s development of this guidance [. . .] the AVMA has actively communicated our profession’s needs for compounded products. [. . .] The final guidance reflects many changes made in response to advocacy by the AVMA.”

Correcting Night Blindness in Dogs

LRIT3_signal.jpgA single injection of gene therapy containing a normal version of the LRIT3 gene resulted in lasting restoration of night vision in dogs affected by a form of congenital stationary night blindness similar to one affecting humans.

Researchers in the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) School of Veterinary Medicine and colleagues have developed a gene therapy that restores dim-light vision in dogs with a congenital form of night blindness, offering hope for treating a similar condition in people.

Researchers report that people with congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) are unable to distinguish objects in dim-light conditions. Previously, UPenn researchers learned that dogs could develop a form of inherited night blindness with strong similarities to the condition in people, and they identified the gene responsible.

In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reported on a gene therapy that returns night vision to dogs born with CSNB. They say that the success of this approach, which targets a group of cells deep in the retina called ON bipolar cells, charts a significant step toward the goal of developing a treatment for both dogs and people with this condition, as well as other vision problems that involve ON bipolar cell function.

Dogs with CSNB that received a single injection of the gene therapy began to express the healthy LRIT3 protein in their retinas and were able to navigate a maze in dim light. The researchers report that the treatment also appears lasting, with a sustained therapeutic effect of a year or longer.


Veterinary Alumni Launch Fund to Support Wellbeing Efforts

Cornell alumni Bruce Christensen, DVM, encountered personal struggles during his career and lost a classmate and close friend who suffered from mental health issues. “All of those elements came together and really made me feel like, if there is something we can do about these issues—we should,” Christensen said.

The school reports that this idea crystallized into the College of Veterinary Medicine Wellbeing and Mental Health Fund, spearheaded by Christensen and classmate Ericka Mendez, DVM. If successfully endowed at the required $100K amount, the fund would offset costs associated with the curricular adjustments already underway and programmatic efforts at the college.

“It is our hope that as students engage with the reality of mental health challenges in our profession and use their time in veterinary school to develop resilience and positive coping strategies, we can reduce individual crises and increase overall personal peace and happiness for those who follow us,” Christensen and Mendez wrote in a letter to their classmates.

US Biofirm Plans to Make Hypoallergenic Cats Using CRISPR Gene Editing

GettyImages-904790176.jpgResearchers at Virginia-based biotech company InBio report progress toward developing a hypoallergenic cat in an article published online in The CRISPR Journal. Company researchers have deleted the genes for the allergy-causing protein in cat cells as a first step toward creating cats that don’t trigger allergies. “The estimated timeline for this is several years,” said Nicole Brackett, who leads the CRISPR cat team at InBio.

The company reports that about 15% of people have allergic reactions to cats. The main cause of this is a small protein called Fel d 1 that is secreted by salivary and skin glands. It is spread over cats’ fur when felines clean themselves and can become airborne as the fur dries.

The team deleted Fel d 1 subunit genes from cat cells growing in culture using the CRISPR genome editing technique. The next step will be to delete all copies of the two genes at once and to confirm that this prevents cells from making the Fel d 1 protein. At that time, the team reports they will try to create cats that lack the genes. “[We have] no particular cat breeds in mind at the moment,” said Brackett.

Zoetis Foundation Announces Nearly $5 Million in Grants to Advance Animal Care Initiatives

gettyimages-1357774532-170667a.jpgThe Zoetis Foundation announced that it will distribute $4.9 million during its first round of 2022 grants. Funding was pledged in support of veterinary scholarships, diversity and inclusion programming, and mental wellness in the United States as well as livestock farmers and veterinary livelihoods around the world.

“People who care for animals are at the center of everything we do. As veterinarians and farmers continue to face mounting challenges, we are thrilled to fund a variety of organizations that are identifying innovative solutions and making a positive impact in our communities,” said Jeannette Ferran Astorga, president of the Zoetis Foundation and executive vice president of corporate affairs, communications, and sustainability at Zoetis, in a press release.


Taking a One Health Approach to Muscle Loss Research

Two Tufts University scientists are researching how a One Health collaboration between animal and human health researchers can achieve better outcomes for both people and pets. They report that sarcopenia is a syndrome seen frequently in both humans and companion animals.

Veterinary nutritionist Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD, and Roger Fielding, associate center director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, collaborated to present a session at a recent conference. They report that Fielding is an expert in sarcopenia in humans, and Freeman wanted to see if the international conference he was helping to organize could include information on sarcopenia in animals. To that end, the recent International Conference on Frailty and Sarcopenia Research, held in Boston, included a satellite summit, “Sarcopenia Across Species: A One Health Approach.” The goal was to get more scientists who are working on human muscle wasting and frailty as it affects healthy aging to talk with scientists studying similar issues in companion animal health.

“It’s simply not as effective or efficient to study muscle wasting in parallel,” said Freeman, a professor of clinical nutrition at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Just as humans are living longer, so too are cats and dogs. As the population of elderly companion animals increases, it becomes easier to study naturally occurring diseases and conditions that, like sarcopenia, develop as a part of aging.

“We can each learn so much more from each other and by working together,” said Fielding, who is also a senior scientist on the center’s sarcopenia team and professor of biochemical and molecular nutrition and medicine. “I thought it was a great idea.”

Misconceptions Surround the Roles of Veterinary Technicians

GettyImages-1332755026.jpgA North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) survey of more than 1,000 pet owners revealed that pet owners trust and have positive feelings toward credentialed veterinary nurses/technicians. The results also stated that there are significant misconceptions about their responsibilities, education, and skills.

The survey indicated:

  • 47% were unaware that the role of the credentialed veterinary nurse/technician consists of performing medical tasks and procedures.
  • 73% thought that the veterinary technician role involved cleaning cages, removing animal waste, and feeding or grooming pets (responsibilities typically performed by less experienced and noncredentialed staff).
  • 63% did not know credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians are the animal healthcare equivalent of registered nurses.
  • 20% mistakenly thought that veterinary nurses/technicians have less than two years of higher education. They are also unaware of the national exam needed to achieve a license or the requirements for continued education to maintain that license.

“Like their counterparts in human healthcare, credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians are also highly skilled professionals, providing life-saving and life-enhancing care for pets as well as emotional support,” said Harold Davis, BA, RVT, VTS, NAVC board president, in a release. “Respondents indicated they value veterinary nurses/technicians; now it’s up to us to do a better job by educating pet owners how vital they are to the veterinary healthcare team so their skills can be better leveraged for the benefit of animals everywhere,” he said.

Vegan Diets for Dogs May Be Linked to Better Health


A United Kingdom study of more than 2,500 dogs that explored the links between dog diet and health outcomes found that nutritionally sound vegan diets may be healthier and less hazardous than conventional or raw meat–based diets. Researchers at the University of Winchester published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers analyzed data from guardians of 2,536 dogs fed a conventional meat, raw meat, or vegan diet. The survey examined seven indicators of ill health, including unusual numbers of veterinary visits, medication use, progression onto a therapeutic diet after initial maintenance on a vegan or meat-based diet, guardian opinion and predicted veterinary opinion of health status, percentage of unwell dogs, and number of health disorders per unwell dog.

The researchers report that statistical analysis of the results suggested that dogs on conventional diets were less healthy than dogs on raw meat or vegan diets. They also report that while dogs on raw meat diets appeared to be healthier than those on vegan diets, several factors impacted that conclusion. These include the fact that in the study, dogs on raw meat diets were significantly younger than dogs on vegan diets, which could help explain why they appeared to be healthier. Also, dogs on raw meat diets were less likely to be taken to a veterinarian—researchers say that while this could be a sign of better health, prior research has indicated that guardians of dogs on raw meat diets are less likely to seek veterinary advice.

Study: Cannabis Poisoning Cases in Pets Have Increased Significantly

Researchers surveyed veterinarians in the US and Canada and report mounting cases of cannabis poisoning among pets. Richard Quansah Amissah of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and fellow researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers state that pets who are exposed to cannabis may experience symptoms of cannabis poisoning with varying degrees of severity. To improve understanding of cannabis poisoning in pets, Amissah and colleagues analyzed survey data from 251 veterinarians based in Canada or the US. The survey included questions about cannabis poisoning cases encountered by participants over several previous years.

Statistical analysis of the responses showed that the number of cannabis poisoning cases jumped significantly in both the US and Canada following the 2018 legalization of cannabis in Canada. The authors note that the postlegalization boost could be explained by increased cannabis use, but that increased reporting may have contributed as well.

The authors stated that “this is an important topic to study in the light of recent legalization of cannabis in Canada and across multiple states. In order to understand the mechanisms underlying cannabis-induced toxicosis in pets, and to develop treatments for it, we need to first understand what it looks like; this is what we had hoped to accomplish with this survey, and we believe that these findings will help us get a better handle on this understudied topic.”

Photo credits: SDI Productions/E+ via Getty Images. Photos courtesy of Keiko Miyadera; Ukususha/iStock via Getty Images. DrAfter123/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images; FatCamera/E+ via Getty Images; Prostock-Studio/iStock via Getty Images. dima_sidelnikov/iStock via Getty Images.; via Getty Images



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